ALGIERS, Algeria (LifeSiteNews) — The new archbishop of Algiers has said Catholics must “abandon the idea that we have to evangelize and bring people to our truth.”
“At the same time, we have to accept that there might be in Islam some truth that escapes us,” Jean-Paul Vesco said during an interview with Swiss Catholic news website cath.ch on Sunday.
The North African country is 98.2 percent Muslim.
When asked about the relationship between Catholics and Muslims in Algeria, the archbishop quoted pope Francis who following his visit to Iraq last year said that Catholics “often must take risks to promote harmony.”
“There are some criticisms: ‘The pope isn’t courageous, he’s reckless. He’s doing things against Catholic doctrine,’” Francis told reporters as he flew back to Rome from Baghdad on March 8, 2021.
“This is important, human fraternity, that as men we are all brothers, and we must move forward with other religions,” said Francis on the same occasion.
The new archbishop explained that these words of Pope Francis “express exactly what I live and what I feel.”
“We are human brothers first and foremost,” said Vesco.
The new archbishop praised the Pope for “daring to take the risk of professing a human fraternity beyond religious affiliations.”
“That way, [Pope Francis] shows us that evangelization happens through fraternity, not conversion. It’s revolutionary! In a sense, he asserts that baptism is not the condition for salvation,” stated Vesco enthusiastically.
Neither was the archbishop particularly concerned by the fact that Algeria, a country of some 45 million people, only has a community of far fewer than 50,000 Catholics, most of which are expatriates, students, and migrants, as opposed to converts.
According to Vesco, “numbers give no indication of how fruitful a [Catholic] presence is.”
Vesco contrasted his vision with the approach of the evangelical church, which is experiencing a tremendous growth in Algeria.
“Where we profess the existence of a universal fraternity, the evangelical churches emphasize the need to enter a community through baptism,” said Vesco. “Moreover, protestant churches are not considered foreign, since they are mostly made up of Algerian converts.”
In spite of this, Vesco did not see protestant churches as competitors of the Catholic Church. “They also have their share of truth which might escape us,” he said.
Since a 2006 ordinance, the spreading of any material pertaining to the Christian faith, including copies of the Bible or the Gospel, is illegal in Algeria.